Last week, Pro Wrestling Illustrated released it’s second annual Female 50, a list of the ‘top’ women wrestlers of today. Similar to last year’s list, this year’s Female 50 was met with praise by some but criticism by most. The Female 50 is ranked by popularity, skill, and merit, yet there’s still a few girls on there that has us fans scratching our heads. Is Rosa Mendes really more skilled than say, Alicia Fox? Is Madison Rayne more popular than Natalya? Is Mickie James really the ‘Queen of the Hill’?
As Stew Allen accurately points out on the Women of Wrestling Podcast, “Women’s wrestling is a niche within a niche.” While this is true, I have noticed that women’s wrestling fans tend to be a lot more outspoken and hard to please than your run-of-the-mill wrestling fan. That being the case, how can you put together a list such as this one and still please everyone?
In order to expose and possibly repair the flaws in the Female 50, we really need to look at the actual structure of said list. According to Dan Murphy, one of the men behind this year’s list, several factors went into compiling the 50 names that made the list: “Work rate, promotional push, talent, marketability and other criteria.” Murphy also notes that the list received input from some ‘respected women in the industry’.
One of these women that he’s referring to is Missy Hyatt. Not to take anything away from Missy, but she wasn’t really a wrestler, was she? Maybe someone with more of a hand in the wrestling aspect of the industry would have been a better choice to give feedback on the list. Women like Jazz, Jacqueline and Molly Holly are seasoned veterans, who have a firm grasp of all aspects of the industry and are, quite frankly altogether more credible than Missy Hyatt. I really think that someone of their experience could have helped PWI trim some of the fat off of that list and add some substance.
Aside from the overall list, one spot in particular has been a hot topic of debate — the coveted number one spot. Many are wondering if WWE Divas Champion, Mickie James actually deserves the top spot. Mickie is arguably the most popular Diva of the current generation, so I personally take no issue with her making the top 10. However, like many others I’m not sure what has made her worthy of her #1 spot this year. Judging by the criteria aforementioned, Mickie just doesn’t seem to tick all the boxes… Consideration for this year’s list began in July 2008 and ended in July 2009, I’m told. In that time frame, Mickie had a less than exceptional run in WWE. Not only did she drop her title to Beth Phoenix at SummerSlam 2008, she completely dropped off the radar, competing only in multi-Diva tag team matches. It wasn’t until the annual Draft in April that James was entered into a prominent feud, this time against the newly drafted Maryse, who held the Divas Championship at the time.
While Mickie was out of the spotlight, Melina rose to top Diva status, feuding with Beth Phoenix and winning the Women’s Championship at the Royal Rumble in January, having a cross-brand rivalry with Maryse and taking her title to SmackDown and straight into a programme with Michelle McCool. That’s three high-profile feuds in less than a year.
Divas such as Maryse and Michelle have also had model years in Mickie’s downtime. Both girls managed to put on a great programme whilst feuding for the Divas title. Their rivalry was arguably the start of a new era of women wrestling on the blue brand.
In TNA, Angelina Love defeated Awesome Kong to win her first ever championship in the company and becoming only the fourth woman to ever hold the belt. She had repeat success, becoming only the second woman to be a two-time Knockouts Champion also. Meanwhile in SHIMMER, MsChif defended her SHIMMER Championship against all challengers; among those who have fell to her include Sara Del Rey, Daizee Haze and most recently Serena Deeb. Based on this evidence, couldn’t one argue that any of these girls could have easily had Mickie spot this year?
Based on the evidence presented, as well as the comments made by PWI, I’ve come to my own conclusion about the questionable ranking of the ‘Female 50’ this year and Mickie’s placement in particular. While Mickie may not have had the best year in terms of exposure, she has something a lot of the other women don’t. Believe it or not, she has been in the industry for over a decade and has amassed quite a few accolades. She has five title reigns under her belt and is technically the veteran Diva of the WWE. Not to mention, her connection with the fans is undeniable. Like it or not, you have to admit there’s a certain logic to Mickie’s top billing this year.
Arguably, there are much better wrestlers in TNA and SHIMMER, but can they get the same kind of mainstream attention that comes with being a WWE Diva? Obviously not, since they’re not working with the same budget or notoriety that WWE is. It’s easy to say that TNA’s Knockouts or SHIMMER’s athletes should be put over some of WWE’s Divas based on in-ring prowess alone, but when it comes to exposure to the masses, most women’s wrestling fans couldn’t pick some of the these girls out of a line-up, let alone name them. It can be extremely easy to overlook them in lieu of more visible and/or more marketable girls.
In closing, while the Female 50 is based on various criteria and deliberated over for months, at the end of the day it’s the opinion of a select few that hold the most weight. There’s no possible way to ‘fix’ the flaws in the Female 50, given the way it’s compiled. Besides, even if the list was tailored to fit the general opinion of the fans, you still can’t please everyone.